An ad found in Astounding Science Fiction, December 1956: “HOW IS YOUR ROBOT SUPPLY HOLDING OUT?” Is last year’s model broken, or have they all just wandered off? I suppose there’s also subtext as to whether your robots have revolted and killed all their masters, or…well, I suppose that’s where all roads lead anyhow.
It’s offering a ‘turtle’, a light-sensing robot with ‘hungry’ and ‘avoid’ states called the Machina Speculatrix, which was actually a significant leap in technology: remember, this is the mid-1950s, experimental robotics wasn’t something they taught in an afterschool program using Legos, Radio Shack was still focusing on radios, and the original plans are vacuum-tube based. The ad was from Oliver Garfield Company, whose biggest contribution was the Geniac calculators, and also offered basic instruction in ‘hyperspeed reading’, modelling a nerve cell in electronics, and digital and analog computers.
The instructions for the Machina Speculatrix were $5, which is a pretty hefty amount — $50 in today’s dollars — and buying the unassembled kit would set you back a cool grand in 2019 money. But, really, isn’t a few weeks’ salary a small price to pay for cutting edge robotics technology?